Lifelong passion keeps researcher at top of tree

An 87-year-old researcher from The University of Western Australia with a passion for agricultural science is proving age is no barrier to a successful research career after publishing 59 research papers, including seven this year, since retiring in 1992.

Honorary Research Fellow Dr Jim Barrow from UWA’s School of Biological Sciences said he preferred research over crosswords because it’s easier, more fun and mentally stimulating.

“It’s not very different to art, you might as well ask an artist why they keep painting pictures despite not being paid for their work. It’s just what you do when you’re passionate,” Dr Barrow said.

Dr Barrow began his research career at CSIRO initially driving around NSW conducting field work in agronomy. He later did more lab and theoretical work and was ultimately promoted to the position of a Chief Research Scientist II, the highest research classification in the organisation.

“I managed to publish quite a few research papers and earn qualifications, so before I knew where I was, I was at the top of the tree.”

Dr Jim Barrow

“I started my 40-year career at CSIRO as a technical officer, one of the lowest rungs in the organisation, and eventually found out I was fairly good at doing research,” he said.

“I managed to publish quite a few research papers and earn qualifications, so before I knew where I was, I was at the top of the tree.”

When Dr Barrow isn’t conducting research, he enjoys visiting his wife who is in a nursing home and writing about WA wildflowers.

“When I came to Western Australia, I saw these crazy plants with red stems and green flowers and I thought, what on earth kind of a place are we living in here,” he said.

“After my retirement my wife and I joined the Wildflower Society of Western Australia and built up quite a bit of knowledge in the area.”

Dr Barrow collaborates with research colleagues in India who conduct the experiments and contribute towards producing manuscripts.

“I suggest things we might want to test, they do the work and then we write up the manuscripts. This has enabled us to investigate lots of things.”

In the future, Dr Barrow hopes to continue his scientific research, among other interests.

“There are always activities with the Wildflower Society, a German conversation group, and children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to keep me busy.”

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